J, please sit. Don’t touch the beetle. C’mon, stop jumping in the puddle. Can you quiet down a little? You’re so loud! PLEASE sit. Ahh! Take your hands out of the water- it’s yucky! Stop chewing on your shirt. SIT DOWN! Ugh! Okay, let’s get up to the house- you’re obviously not listening.
Well, would you want to listen to someone who talked to you like that all the time?
For some reason, I’ve got this control freak inside of me who likes to keep things orderly. Maybe it’s to make up for my own sore lack of organization. Maybe if I keep my children clean and well-behaved all the time, then my own messy house and chronic lateness won’t bother me so much. If I just push them to be perfect, then I can relieve some of my own stress and carry on with my day. Right?
Well, that’s not a good approach.
I’m all for having children obey their parents. I’m all for promoting order in the household, too. But sometimes, I think we forget the other half of the story- that parents are not to exasperate their children. (Colossians 3:20-21.)
It’s good to expect your kids to listen to their parents. But when a parent’s requests become so oppressive and unreasonable, it becomes increasingly more difficult for the children to listen well.
Sometimes I set up a standard that seems impossibly irritating when I look at it from the outside. Yes, I want my children to love the outdoors and music and the arts and to embrace learning and have little free, uninhibited spirits. But please, don’t let them get dirty while they’re outside. And the volume on the digital piano is up WAY too loud. And no, we can’t paint now because it’s too messy and it’s a big pain to clean up. And that’s too many books to fit in our library bag! And on and on and on…
When I’m not letting my kids just be kids, I AM exasperating them. We butt heads more and more. We get into a crazy cycle. I ask them to behave like adults in cubicles and then feel driven up the wall when they don’t comply. They, in turn, act out more and more until their lack of obedience is intolerable. Then we’re ALL big cranky pants who need a time out.
Does this mean I just let them do whatever they want, whenever they want? No. They still need to listen to their parents. They still need a nap, a bedtime, balanced meals, and a relatively reasonable order of things. They still shouldn’t hit and kick and scream at one another.
But mama needs to uphold her end of the deal too. I need to love them, show patience with them, and let go of the image of perfectly still, well-groomed children who play quietly on their own. (And think about it- how awful and boring would that be if that’s the way they were?!?)
I need to let them be kids.
Today, in this moment, I am going to try to stop the cycle in its tracks and start out on a better foot.
Today, I will let my kids explore.
Today, I will not get mad if they get messy.
Today, I will let them eat every last one of the berries we pick without complaining that there are none left for preservation.
Today, I will let them read longer, play harder, sing louder.
Today, I will not poo-poo their ideas and their ways of figuring things out.
Today, I will try to hold my tongue and be merciful to them. I will try to erase the image of perfection that I have created. I will try to stop commanding things of them that don’t really matter.
Today, I will let my kids be the creative, energetic, happy children that they are. I will look for the good in what they are doing. I will relinquish control, instead of trying to micro-manage their every move.
Today, I’m letting go of perfect children, and embracing the ones I have.